Hearty, Healthy, Homemade Winter Soups

In the midst of winter, what better way to warm the soul than by having some hearty, homemade soup?

Food & Wine magazine Special Projects Director Gail Simmons visited "The Early Show Saturday Edition" with recipes that are also healthy, easy to make, and easy on the pocketbook - not to mention, delicious!

She even showed how to make a traditional chicken soup to help stave off the winter sniffles.

These aren't loaded with fat and sodium, as so many mass-produced canned soups are.

Her soups included:
Hearty Chicken and Rice Soup with Dill & Parsnips
Meaty Turkey Chili with Hominy
Split Pea Soup with Portobello Mushrooms

"Early Show" recipes galore!

Simmons started with the hearty chicken soup. Instead of the traditional chicken noodle soup, she substitutes in brown rice, which adds a ton of great vitamins and nutrients that you would miss out on with using egg noodles. Another tip for making the soup a little healthier is to use low-sodium chicken broth. Often, the store-bought stuff has way more than necessary and can be too salty.

Simmons also uses a lot of fresh herbs and parsnips, which really kick up the flavor without any extra work. And to save even more time, she suggests buying a whole rotisserie chicken and shredding the meat, rather than cooking your own chicken breast. Not only is that a time-saver, but supermarket rotisserie chickens are frequently very inexpensive.

Then, Simmons moved on to turkey chili. Turkey is a great substitute in chili, because it's a leaner than the more traditional chili meat, beef. Not only is it a little healthier, but the turkey adds a nice, smoky flavor to the chili without all that extra fat. But beware: Even if a chili is healthy, you can easily make it really fattening by the toppings you add. Simmons advises that you skip the sour cream, bacon bits and cheddar cheese and opt for better ingredients, such as chopped avocado, sliced radishes, onions and jalapenos.

Simmons also brought along a split pea soup with Portobello mushrooms. It's a beautiful, silky soup and a great option for vegetarians. Traditionally, split pea soup has ham in it, but a great alternative is Portobello mushrooms, which give you that meaty texture. This recipe makes use of frozen peas which, surprisingly, have the same nutritional value as fresh ones, but are a lot less expensive.

If you're seeking healthy soup recipes, they're really easy to find: Just look for recipes using whole grains, beans, and lean sources of protein, such as chicken and turkey, and vegetables, of course.

All healthy soup making is a formula: Learn it and you can make any soup at all with easy variations:

1. Start by building flavors with colorful and healthy vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, garlic, etc.).
2. Add liquid (water or broth) and other dry ingredients (beans, meat, etc.).
3. Simmer, puree if desired.
4. Garnish and serve: That's easy and a great one-pot meal for cold winter days (or chilled in summer).

Soup is a great way to get in your veggies and your vitamins, as it's very simple to prepare and very filling and delicious. And there are sooo many varieties!